Chesterfield 0 Rochdale 0: Saunders takes heart from cleen sheet

Chesterfield's  Ian Evatt attempts to keep the ball in play. Photo: James Williamson
Chesterfield's Ian Evatt attempts to keep the ball in play. Photo: James Williamson
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Not for 30 years had these two regular rivals served up a goalless game.

With both managers indicating they could have won it and they could have lost it, the end result was a fair one, the quality of the game having been reasonable without too many great heights being scaled.

Long term memories of the match will be the variability of the weather, Josh Lillis’s save from Sylvan Ebanks-Blake and Donal McDermott’s fine performance against his former club.

The first half was played out in stunning sunshine, red hot and muggy, leading to Spireites fitness coach Mal Purchase organising iced-towels for the players to aid their heat recovery systems. Right after the break there were monsoon conditions which died out before returning towards the end.

On 44 minutes Lee Novak, on his home debut, worked a good position on the right and crossed perfectly for Ebanks-Blake. The striker headed the ball from close range with ferocity and accuracy and a goal looked certain, only for Dale’s keeper to somehow position his right hand perfectly and strongly to scoop the ball away. The rebound fell back to the Chesterfield man but he was still landing from his previous jump and he was unable to cash in.

Dale’s major danger came from McDermott, who John Sheridan brought to Saltergate in 2009 from Manchester City and who became one of Spireites best loan signings.

After his career nosedived and he disappeared from the league game but he showed that he’s back on track with a superb show. Twice he forced former team mate Tommy Lee to be at his best, once at his feet and again from a 30 yard free-kick. His buzzing runs and seemingly omnipresent positioning was refreshing to see after seemingly overcoming his personal demons. “I’m delighted he’s doing so well, he’s a fantastic player,” commented keeper Lee afterwards.

Novak, who was subbed with a nasty facial injury, forced a decent save from Lillis on his home debut whilst the other home first timer, Angel, steadily carried out his holding midfield duties with quiet confidence. Home fans seemed to like what they saw.

Of the game Dean Saunders said: “It was a bit like a basketball game at times, end to end, they’ve had chances, we’ve had chances and I thought it was a fair result.

“I’m glad we kept a clean sheet, the first of the season, we’ve got seven points which is good. When we look back at the end of the season at this 0-0 against a good team, we’ll say it was a point gained, but we could have nicked it at the end; Gbolyi (Ariyibi) has got to the by-line and just had to cut the ball back, but a clean sheet, we’d looked a million miles away from that.”

Saunders is hoping to add to his squad with a versatile defender-midfielder thought to be close to signing.

Chesterfield: Lee 8, Talbot 6, Evatt 8, Hird 7, Jones 7, Gardner 7 (Ariyibi 63, 7), Morsy 6, Angel 6, O’Shea 6, Novak 6 (Banks 76), Ebanks-Blake 6 (Gnanduillet 86). Subs (not used): Cairns, Humphreys, Raglan, Harrison.

Rochdale: Lillis 8, Rafferty 7, McNulty 8, Lancashire 7 (Eastham 58, 6), Kennedy 7, Vincenti 6, Allen 7, Bunney 6 (Andrew 38, 7), Camps 6 (Bennett 58, 6), McDermott 8, Henderson 6. Subs (not used): Collis, Alessandra, Tanser, Rose.

Ref: Keith Hill (Herts).

Bookings: Evatt (Chesterfield), Andrew, Henderson (Rochdale). Attendance: 6,254.